A team of research scientists suggests that a biodegradable implant made from synthetic material could someday help heal bones in patients with orthopedic injuries who need bone replacement.

The material is created from cornstarch combined with a volcanic ash compound called Montmorillonite clay. Using a synthetic material instead of a traditional bone graft procedure may likely lead to a reduction in the surgery complication rate.

This would be because the patient would only need to heal from one surgery because harvesting bone would not be necessary, according to a media release from Beaumont Health.

A study explaining the synthetic material, by Kevin Baker, PhD, director, Beaumont Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, and Rangaramanujam Kannan, PhD, of Johns Hopkins, formerly with Wayne State University, was published recently in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, per the release.

Traditional bone graft procedures require surgeons to remove bone from another part of the patient’s body to heal the affected area and encourage new bone growth. Harvesting a patient’s bone can result in complications at the harvest site. Some surgeons also use bone donated from cadavers. However, there is a limited supply of donor bones available, the release explains.

The material is created by injecting the polymer-clay mixture with carbon dioxide, resulting in an implant that looks like foam, but is rigid like bone. The goal is to use the material without any additional permanent hardware placed in a patient’s body, the release explains.

“This improves outcomes for the patient because internal hardware can pose a challenge with respect to being a potential site for infection, and can complicate MRI and CT imaging tests,” Baker explains.

“In addition, from the surgeon’s perspective, not having to worry about a large piece of metal or hard plastic in the area may make future procedures easier,” he adds.

The biodegradable material is designed to last in the body for about 18 months. While it dissolves, new bone material forms to take its place.

The release notes that the material is still in the research phase and likely will not be available to patients for several years.

[Source(s): Beaumont Health, Science Daily]